Thinking Systems After A Mass Shooting

I live and work six blocks from the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, IL. On February 15th, Gary Martin killed five people and wounded five police officers after being fired from Henry Pratt. At this time, not much is known about Mr. Martin. I’ve written before about violence in society. What I do know is that there is a connection between chronic anxiety in the family, one’s level of stress and violent behavior. All of us tend to move towards others to take control or to distance when anxiety goes up. In cases where there is violence, people move aggressively towards others when there is high levels of family intensity, significant cutoff among family members and a trigger of intense stress.

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Violence in Society

Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed seventeen people and wounded seventeen more, I found myself in a conversation (really a debate) with a gun rights advocate. I’m grateful for the conversation because it helped clarify my thinking about gun violence and violence in general.

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I’m not a political expert

I’m not a political expert. But I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to make sense of the senate confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a hearing focused on accusations of sexual misconduct and excessive drinking. Opinions vary dramatically on the “reasons” for the partisan fight and who is to blame.

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# Church Too

Earlier this year, Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of the megachurch Willow Creek in South Barrington, IL, resigned ahead of his planned retirement. The early departure was in response to allegations of sexual misconduct. Earlier this month, it was reported that Willow Creek Church settled a separate case of sexual abuse for $3.2 million after a volunteer sexually assaulted two disabled children. And then last week, a grand jury released its findings that over 1000 children were sexually abused by over 300 priests in six Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.

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Reacting to a Racist Family Member

Authored by John Bell, M. Div.

As I followed the news about Charlottesville, I came across a story of a family coming to grips with the revelation that their son participated in the organized rally of white nationalists.  I’ve decided not to reprint their names.  The story is about a father who published a letter online in response to his son’s participation in the rally.  In the letter, the father repudiates the son’s beliefs and behavior.  The father tells the son that he is not welcomed …

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Polarization: What Happened to the Continuum?

Authored by John Bell, M.Div.

The ideas presented in this blog are taken from a new training module that is available to congregations and community stakeholders who are interested in addressing polarization in their communities.  If you’d like more information about the training, contact John Bell at moc.snoitagergnocgniknihtnull@nhoj. Reverend Bell also presented these concepts on May 6, 2017 at the 34th Midwest Symposium Theory and Therapy.

Polarization takes a toll on communities and creates additional problems for institutions.  Compromise, collaboration, and cooperation are replaced with confrontation, obstinacy, …

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Cutoff: The challenge of the parent/child relationship

Authored by John Bell, M. Div.

“The more a nuclear family maintains some kind of viable emotional contact with the past generations, the more orderly and asymptomatic the life process in both generations” Murray Bowen, Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, 383.

Phillip Klever, LCSW, LMFT recently published the results of a fifteen-year research project on cutoff in the family.  He studied the most extreme cases in his family of high symptomatology and low symptomatology.  He found five couples on either end of the continuum of symptomatology (high …

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Understanding Triangles is Key to Conflict Resolution

Authored by John Bell, M.Div.

The concept of the triangle was one of the first concepts added to Bowen Family Systems Theory in 1955.  Dr. Murray Bowen wrote that the triangle, “a three-person emotional configuration, is the molecule or the basic building block of any emotional system, whether it is in the family or any other group.” (Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, 373)

Three examples of triangles

Let’s say you are the chair of the trustees for your congregation.  You’re about to walk into a worship service and …

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The Hospital Visit

Authored by John Bell, M. Div.

Early on in my career, I used to stress over hospital visits.  I didn’t mind going to the hospital.  Growing up, I saw hospitals as helpful and caring places.  My stress about making hospital visits had more to do with my role as clergy.  I worried about encountering the unexpected and having to think on my feet; having to know what to say or do or what not to say or do.

To me, what is challenging about hospital visits is …

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